Sunday, September 27, 2020

Happiness. Period. As in full stop

South African actresses, Ayanda Khala, Refiloe Lepere and Juanita Azanai, who were last seen in 2007 at the Maitisong, performing their play, Money for Shoes, were here again.

This time, they presented at the Little Theatre another production about the relentless pursuit of that flighty thing called happiness. Their play was titled Happiness. Period. As in Full Stop, as part of the Maitisong Festival.

They stuck to the format of a talk show they used in Money for Shoes, with Stella the Nigerian sister who has cracked it as an enterprising talk show host in South Africa. Stella whips her two employees into different characters whom the audience are given the liberty to engage with through her slogan that, “talking audience is a talking nation”.

One of the first skits by Khala and Lepere depicts two law students, one of them involved with an ‘unhappy’ married man. She believes his wife is ‘sleeping on the job,’ and standing in her own way to utter happiness with the unsuspecting woman’s husband. While her friend persuades her that happiness is the definition of being a mistress, she does not have to cook, clean and also wash the said man’s clothes. The young woman has taken it upon herself to introduce herself to the married woman.

While Stella passes the microphone around, the audience gives variations of the morally upstanding advice that the young woman must leave the married man alone. The young woman’s hunt of happiness via the hostile takeover of another woman’s items overshadows the reality that the only happy party is the man who is having his bread buttered on both sides, having his selfish needs met by a wife who performs matrimonial duties and a young mistress who tries her all to cheer him up because his wife is ‘sleeping on the job’.

What is similar in all the scenes is that often to satiate their need for happiness, people trample all over someone else’s. As a mother who is into appearances, she gives her daughter grief over who she must not date. Certainly not a Zimbabwean, she says. Mama deserves happiness too from a daughter she struggled to raise while her husband gallivanted till this day; she must be listened to and obeyed.

In a final scene, a young woman is on the verge of committing suicide because she never quite captures the feeling of happiness for a long time. She plays sports, prays to God, and is engaged to be married to a wonderful man. Can happiness ever be a permanent state, as in full stop?

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.